A/N: This is a one-shot for now, but I'm still ruminating over all this stuff. I quit watching Chuck after Sarah popped Mauser in the Xmas tree lot. Actually, my S/O, SWMNBN, started watching Dancing With the Stars and since we only have the one TV, well, you guys out there understand. If there's interest, I'll continue. If not consider this finito. All you blood-sucking, bottom-feeding lawyers out there be advised that I don't own Chuck. If I did, things would be different. For one thing, Chuck would not be such a co-dependent wuss, Casey would be more the mentor than menace and not every building in L.A. would be an abandoned warehouse. I've lived there. Every other building is a liquor store.
Pandora unlocked the box and slightly lifted the lid but before she realized what had happened disease, despair, hunger, poverty, war, sickness, death, old age, greed, violence and a few more evil things flew out of the box. She quickly closed the box leaving one thing in, hope.
The Agent followed the little gray Nissan Sentra from the apartment where the driver picked up the Asset, then to the unassuming little Italian restaurant where they'd shared an intimate dinner and finally to her garden apartment. Not his. Hers. The Agent parked the Porsche where it wouldn't easily be seen but had a good view of the target area.
She assembled the sniper rifle robotically, taking each piece from it's foamed form in the small case on the passenger seat. snapped the stock into the receiver group, inserted the barrel and twisted it tight, screwed in the silencer and opted to forego the night sight. For a mere 50 yards with a target highlighted by lighted sconces on either side of the door, it would be more of a hindrance than a help. She loaded a single cartridge into the chamber and worked the bolt to seat the round.
She rolled down the window of her Porsche and braced herself against the door panel, established a good sight picture and moved the safety from 'safe' to 'fire'.
She had to stop the Asset from falling under the influence of a … she saw the moment had almost slipped past her.
Just as their lips were about to touch in a kiss that promised more intimate moments beyond the front door she pulled the trigger, caressed it actually, feeling the recoil against her shoulder, knowing she had hit her target.
The steel-jacketed 186-grain hollow point round struck just above the ear, slightly back from the temple. As it broke the skin and pierced the skull it began to deform, mushrooming to twice it's original size, generating enormous hydrostatic pressure and exiting 2 inches above the ear on the other side.
The Asset was sprayed with small bits of brain matter, flecks of blood and scalp still retaining its long strands of dark brown hair. But it didn't matter if he was shocked into immobility. He was safe. And now the Agent would go to him, take him somewhere safe and show him that she was the one…
"Walker…goddammit, Walker, respond." She jerked herself out of her daydream. Casey's voice still reverberated in her ear. "Yeah, Casey, what's your problem?"
"I take it Bartowski has rounded third base and is heading for home plate? Do you want the all-nighter or do you want me to maintain discrete surveillance? He'll probably be there until breakfast." She could hear the baiting tone in Casey's voice through the ear bud.
"You take it. My ass is numb from sitting. I'm heading back to the hotel. You got your box of tissues? Wouldn't want you to stain the upholstery." She could be just as big a bitch as he could be an ass.
Casey knew he'd gone a bit too far with that last remark. Walker had played her role perfectly up until recently. He knew from his surveillance that the rift between her and the Nerd had grown into a crevasse and that one Sarah Walker was not long for this assignment. He just wondered how long it would be before she 'fessed up to being compromised and requested reassignment. It would be the right thing to do career-wise. He didn't want to dwell on what it would do to her personally.
He grunted. Number 16 that meant 'Ok, I deserved that'. "I'll brief you in the morning. Have a good night."
She took one last wistful look in the direction of the apartment door. It could be me he's going to make love to. It should be me.
She drove back to hotel, slowly for her. She was tense, keyed up and needed some release. If she'd been with Bryce, she knew just what form the release would take but since she wasn't, she'd just take her aggression out on a bag. She threw her workout clothes into a bag and locked it in her trunk. She headed south to a CIA training center. Maybe a good sparring match would put her back in focus.
She entered the nondescript building and stopped in the widow's trap, was challenged and passed then to another, even more confining room for a retina scan. The final door buzzed and she entered the lobby area.
From that point on it was just like any other L.A. health club or gym. Except this one had a firing range and a dojo, one-stop shopping for the denizens of the spy world.
She quickly changed into her workout clothes, locked her weapons in the locker and went in search of a tension-relieving sparring match.
There were several agents or agents-in-training sparring, doing katas or practicing falls and rolls. She did her stretching exercises aware of the blatant stares of some of the men. She'd select her partner from among them. Teach them a lesson in making assumptions.
One man, vaguely resembling her former partner, Bryce, approached her and asked if she'd like to spar or anything else, for that matter. His tone was smooth, self-assured as was his gaze. She hated being mentally disrobed by men. Now HE would never do such a thing. HE was respectful, caring, and always the gentleman.
Oh, this is the one. "Spar 'for now', we'll see about 'anything else' later " she said sweetly. And proceeded to destroy his superiority complex and ensure that he would wear boxers for quite a while. As he lay gasping for breath, curled into a near-fetal position, she leaned down and said, "You're not good enough, you'll never be good enough. You're not HIM."
Feeling better, she returned to the locker room. Glancing over her shoulder she saw two of his friends helping Casanova to his feet. He still was not standing up straight and probably wouldn't for a few days. She laughed at the 'glare of death' he sent her way. She'd been around Morgan way too much.
A quick shower and she headed back to her hotel.
Back in the relative sanctity of her hotel room, she showered again, washed her hair and was in bed and asleep well before midnight.
The dream started about 30 minutes into her slumber. The usual dream with the usual outcome.
They were on the pier, the countdown had reached zero and nothing happened. Nothing at all. The kiss to end her life with someone she loved had been a horrible mistake. If the bomb had exploded, it would have been worth it but it didn't. And now, the asset asked her the question she'd dreaded. And she'd given the official Company line, she had no feelings for him, he was just a job and the kiss was just a human reaction to the heat of the moment. Nothing more. Thank God for truth serum resistance training. Oh, yeah.
But a small voice way in the back of her mind said "Foolish woman. You just threw away your one chance for True Love. Threw it away for what? A job? A career? The greater good? The greater good could give a shit less about you, HIM, the CIA or anything else that doesn't directly affect their lives in a tangible way. No, you threw it away for NOTHING!"
The dream usually stopped at that point. Short, punchy dream. It was pretty much the same dream almost nightly with a few embellishments tonight and a few changes from other nights. But tonight she got both barrels.
" I can't do this any more. I'm tired of the cover, the lies, not being able to have a real relationship. A real girlfriend. Nothing spectacular. I don't qualify for the supermodel anyhow. Anyone who sees us together wonders 'why is she with that loser? Must be a blind date or a pity date. Is it Tuesday already?'"
"I am a man. Not much of one according to Major Casey, but a man nonetheless. And you…one minute you're a glacial monolith and the next you're a hot volcano ready to erupt. I guess it depends on the audience, doesn't it. They taught you well in spy school, Agent Walker. You really had me believing…even after the Truth Serum, I still held on to a flimsy strand of hope. You've taken my freedom, my dreams and now you're trying to take away my hope."
"This isn't working. I'm done with it. Figure out a way to make Beckman and Graham understand. You're good at it. They'll believe you. Tell them I'm gay, I don't care. Not anymore. Make it happen, Agent Walker. I am breaking up for real with my cover girlfriend. How pathetic is that? "
She woke up. Sat up. It had been so real. So final. She remembered the pier. The kiss. So intense. And so intimate. Her nipples had hardened immediately and she felt a sudden flash of heat and moistness at her center. That had been a kiss to stop time. To end time. And she knew that if he'd moved his hand to caress her breast, if he'd moved his thigh between hers that she would have climaxed right there. As it was, the kiss held her on the brink. A delicious suspension between wanting and having. It was incredible. And then it was gone.
And she had made the mistake of looking up into his eyes. She knew then, just as she did now, that he loved her, no, was in love with her. And it frightened the Agent in her. Because love made you vulnerable, weak, unfocused and dependent and that was something no agent could afford in the spy world. Love created hostages, liabilities to be exploited by unforgiving enemies.
Again she thanked God for the truth serum resistance training because without it she would have been a babbling idiot going on and on about her love, lust, desire, and craving for one Charles Irving Bartowski and how she'd find a way to keep the CIA and NSA from finding out about an unsanctioned relationship between handler and asset somehow but just "Please kiss me again".
She had thrown away the gift presented to her by the Fates - her one true love, her soul mate. Dumped all its opportunities and possibilities into the dustbin marked "sacrificed for the greater good".
So she made it happen. Explained it to the best of her ability and so Chuck had his "freedom" to pursue a relationship outside the cover. She was just an agent protecting an asset. Nothing more. It's what she was expected to do… for the greater good.
Casey had understood. He didn't offer her a shoulder to cry on but he no longer was quite so cutting with his comments. Tonight had been an exception. And his remarks had cut through the scar tissue and opened the wound anew. And she bled new tears until at last she slept, dream-free.
Chuck Bartowski slipped out of her apartment about 1am. The evening had gone better than he'd expected. There were a few periods of stilted or lapsed conversation, and those normally when she would make a comment about his "ex" girlfriend or the conversation strayed into 'what are your plans, Chuck?' realms. He knew she was already a successful businesswoman with a great future ahead of her. She had drive, ambition, goals, and all things he'd paid lip service to in the past but was now reconsidering.
They'd opened a bottle of wine and talked more about the future. Then another bottle of wine and some interesting gymnastic exercises on her couch. When she suggested they take the wine and conversation into the bedroom he knew it was time to take his leave. He wasn't ready for that yet.
He explained it as best he could, lamely, and she was charitable. She let him off the hook but promised him that it was only a temporary respite.
"Ok, Chuck, I am trying to be understanding, really, I am. It's hard to start over and maybe I'm pushing you a little too hard but damn, I can only be so patient and mooning over your lost love is not the way to start over. It just sustains the pain. Keeps it fresh. You said yourself she could not commit to anything. So why are you hanging around waiting for her to change her mind?"
And she'd kissed him goodnight after he insisted on taking a cab home. They'd both had too much to drink to drive.
That damned Bryce Larkin and his email. He should have deleted it. Absolutely nothing good had ever come out of his relationship with Bryce. He'd been kicked out of Stanford, lost his fiancé, been cuckolded by his former best friend. And then the slimy scumbag had sent him that damned email.
Well, ok, one good thing, however fleeting. He had met Sarah Walker, CIA agent extraordinaire, and had had a too-brief glimpse of how wonderful life could be with the right woman by his side. Indeed, she was his "Ms. Right" but now he would forever have to settle for "Ms. Right Now". Sarah Walker was simply unattainable. And she'd made it clear that there could never be, would never be, anything between them.
Even after that she did her job. She was very good at it. The cover kisses, the cover holding hands, the cover cuddling for the benefit of Ellie and Devon, the cover lunches, those long and intense cover kisses when she deemed it appropriate and necessary for "their cover."
Yet he'd still clung to the last vestige of hope. She hadn't been able to take the shot when he'd been held by the enemy spy, a gun to his head, a pawn in the spy game of chip-chip-who's-got-the-chip. Bryce or Casey had taken the shot. Not her. He saw her hesitate; saw her fear and that gave him hope. Because it wasn't fear of mission failure, it was fear for him.
And then that spy prick Bryce let him in on a little secret. Chuck would get Sarah killed. Chuck would be the reason she died unnecessarily, before her time was through. Chuck was a liability now, an asset still, but a greater liability to Sarah Walker than he'd ever suspect because one day she would hesitate, pause, miss a step, ignore training for emotion, and she would be dead.
The last words were the most telling. "And you know what, Chuck? It'll be your fault. You will have killed Sarah Walker." And he'd punched him lightly in the arm, a macho goodbye, and left.
The next day he'd ended the cover relationship with Sarah Walker. He'd keep her safe no matter what the cost to him. So he had given his Hope to her. Hope for a long life, successful career, whatever she wanted. She would survive, continue on, and achieve the spy greatness she was so capable of, and anything else, for that matter.
Chuck Bartowski had finally realized the satisfaction of sacrifice for the greater good. So he was happy, in a way few would understand. Not even him.
John Casey had been privy to the conversation between Bryce and Chuck Bartowski and he'd had the same thoughts although his were about the Asset, not his partner, Sarah Walker.
Chuck Bartowski simply did not fit into the spy world. He would never be able to accept that people were not basically good, that good triumphed over evil only if good shot first or that the right things got done only if they didn't conflict with the mission. No. And he wouldn't be able to accept the contradictions that made a good agent. Nor should he. The Chuck Bartowskis of the world constituted the greater good even if individually they might have to be sacrificed if the need arose.
He toyed with the idea of offering him a ride but decided he didn't want to listen to a replay of the evening or the long and painful silence of his brooding. Nope. Let him take a cab. He could have stayed and been taken home the next morning but his damnable scruples got in the way.
Casey admired Chuck for some of his traits but would swear under oath that it was not true. So he fired up his beloved Crown Vic and headed into Burbank after Chuck's cab came and picked him up. He planned on setting the audios on the microphones in Chuck's room on record and he'd sort through the sleep talk, groans and snores of his asset the next morning.
"You mean he got home before 2am? I figured on an all-nighter at least."
"He didn't stay because he's still hung up on a certain blonde who has told him repeatedly in no uncertain terms that's there's no point, no future, no hope of anything other than a cover relationship. Of course, he doesn't know you're lying through your pearly whites like I do. Sarah, he's so far gone, there's no turning back for him. He told her as much tonight. And she still wanted to screw his ears off but his damned sense of "Right" prevailed and he called a cab and left."
"And your former partner and boytoy continues to play with our guy's head. Bryce told Chuck that your feelings for him were going to get you killed. And the very next day he breaks up with you telling you he wants a 'real' relationship. Sarah, he could write the CIA manual on self-sacrifice and probably contribute to the section on deception. He threw away the hope for you two one day getting together for the certainty that he wouldn't be the reason you died before your time."
"What? Why didn't you tell me? How do you know this?"
"I got the fountain bugged. So much happens in the damned courtyard. You want to talk to Chuck "privately", you go to the courtyard. Bryce, too. You both figure the fountain will mask the sound of your voices, but it doesn't, not with today's high tech bugs… And as for why, well, I guess I respect what he's doing. In his mind, he's made a sacrifice for the greater good, your greater good. And he's fine with that. I'm not, but he is."
"If anything happens to Chuck I want your promise, your word of honor, that you won't stop me from killing that ratbastard Bryce Larkin!"
"Stop you? Hell, I'll help you. I kind of got attached to the Nerd. He'd make a helluva Republican. Duty, honor, country. A real Reagan man. Except for his girly scream and his…"